Back to the smallest of the small things. I always do this when the news is bad and there are too many sorrows out in the world. The small things are what make me feel that I can cling on, that the turning earth will not tip me off into vacancy.
So I tidied the feed shed, and made up a new kind of home-made fly spray for the mare, and then rubbed neem oil all over her body to soothe her skin and deal with the lumps and the bumps which come up in summer from the horrid horse-flies.
Setting a kind, trusting animal to rights is one of the keenest pleasures I know. I find her hot and bothered, snatching at the biting critters with her teeth, shaking her head and twitching her great body. I leave her anointed and soothed and settled. I give her a great scratch all over, getting at all the maddening places she can’t reach, including right into her dear ears, and then I cool her with water, and then I smooth the ointments and unguents on her red coat, and then I let her lean her sweet head against me and give her a dozy massage on her poll. It is a form of communion which goes beyond words.
We ride out and I take her to see my mother. My mum is not very mobile, so seeing the horse is a rare pleasure for her. I teach the mare to walk up the steps to the door, one delicate hoof at a time, so she can say hello.
‘How are you going to get her off those steps?’ says my mother, in some astonishment.
‘Like this,’ I say. I point at each hoof in turn. ‘Back one,’ I say, and the clever mare moves one foot at time, returning without fuss to the ground. She looks quietly pleased with herself, and has an ‘aw, it was nothing’ gleam in her eye.
‘We haven’t done that for a while,’ I say, unable to keep the pride out of my voice. ‘But she remembers everything, she’s so intelligent.’
I write 1876 words. I do my HorseBack work. There were young people at HorseBack this week, as part of the fledgling Youth Initiative, where local children who face a variety of challenges work with the horses, helped by several of our regular veterans. There’s a lovely circularity to it, and it’s been a hugely successful experiment, and will now become part of the core of the HorseBack work. I find looking at the pictures of the young people, as I edit and collate and select for the Facebook page, intensely moving.
As I finish this, I can hear a piper playing. There is a wedding about to start across the way from my house, and the sound of proper Scottish bagpipes will welcome a happy couple. Soon, I’ll go back down to the field and attend to that dear red mare. I’ll look at the deer and the trees and the pied wagtails and the swifts and the green, green grass, and Stanley the Dog will hunt for rats and play with enormous sticks, and all those small, small things will settle around me, little battalions against a world which sometimes does not seem to make any sense.
A group of elegant ladies have just moved into the west meadow:
This is Glen Tanar, three miles west on the South Deeside Road, where I spent the morning on Wednesday:
And this was my lovely girl this morning. She does not always come when I appear. Sometimes she is too busy eating, and I wander down and get her. But on some days, she lifts her head and moseys right on over, with a there you are look on her face, which makes me want to laugh out loud with sheer happiness: